When I first learned to saddle seats in 2003, it was with a gutter adze. I stood on the chair seat and swung the tool between my legs. I never developed a knack for the gutter adze, unlike the scorp (sometimes called an inshave), which has always felt at home in my hands.
After working with Chris Williams, however, I was determined to give the adze another chance. Chris learned to saddle seats from John Brown using a small adze. And instead of standing on the chair seat, JB propped it up in front of him at the workbench.
The first success I had was with a Dictum adze. After getting it razor sharp, I could hack out a seat fairly well, just like John Brown showed in “Welsh Stick Chairs.”
Then Chris told me about an adze made by one of John Brown’s sons, blacksmith and woodworker Matty Sears. It was based on an interesting African tool. The handle was hafted to the head in an ingenious manner. The more you used the adze, the tighter the handle became. But you could easily pop the handle off to make sharpening the interior bevel easier.
Matty had made the adze for his father, who used it on chairs he built after the publication of “Welsh Stick Chairs.”
Chris had one, and after using his I decided it was a significant upgrade from my Dictum adze.
As with any striking tool (a hammer or a hatchet, for example), it’s not just about the quality of the steel or the comfort of the handle. It’s about the balance of the tool, which can make it easy to control or make it unwieldy. This is where Matty’s adze excels. The balance is exquisite. And after saddling only a couple chair seats, I found it incredibly easy to place my strikes right where I wanted them. Plus, the weight of the head removes a sizable chip of oak without a lot of upper body strength.
So, instead of swinging the adze with my arms, I merely lift it up and use my thumbs to steer the edge right where I want it, letting the tool’s weight do most of the work (you do have to put some umph behind it). I’ve now made four chairs with Matty’s adze, and I’m a convert.
The tool came beautifully sharpened, and the hand-forged head keeps a wicked edge. All you have to do is maintain that edge, which I do with fine sandpaper wrapped around a dowel, plus a strop. Separating the head from the handle is easy, and that indeed makes sharpening safer and easier. Its primary bevel is on the inside, but there is a shallow bevel on the outside as well. The edge geometry works well, and is easy to maintain.
It is, like the best axes I’ve used, an incredibly elegant tool, even though its job is coarse work.
Like all handmade things, it costs more than mass-manufactured tools. The adze is $400 plus shipping. The bottom line is that, like all my favorite tools, I look forward to using it. Holding it. Wielding it. Even sharpening it. It is a thing of beauty and is also (as a bonus) a direct link to John Brown, one of my woodworking heroes.
The best way to contact Matty about making an adze for you is by sending him a message through his Instagram account, mattysearsworks. Note: You can send Instagram messages through a mobile device, not a desktop machine.
— Christopher Schwarz
Full disclosure: I paid full price for my adze. Matty also receives some royalties from Lost Art Press from sales of “Welsh Stick Chairs,” but that is the entirety of our business relationship.
11 thoughts on “Hand-forged Adze from Matty Sears”
Well made tools are a joy. I have a bowl carving adze from blacksmith Jason Lonon. It’s just perfect. It’s very different, as the primary bevel needs to be on the outside. But a hand forged tool from a master is truly a revelation.
So, sort of a sliding dovetail arrangement attaching handle to head?
Yes, a somewhat curved sliding dovetail.
This was a great post, thanks. There’s nothing like a hand forged tool made with pride and tradition. I think the price sounds reasonable. However, I’ve also got a Dictum adze, and although I use it frequently, I never get quite used to it. Unlike the scorp, which I also find intuitive and fun, the adze is often a challenge to use.
I never seem to find the right body position nor clamping position for the seat. I’ve tried everything from the floor and upwards to being held in a machinist’s vice at chest height. I suspect that good results rely on many factors, and I’m often confused with which of them I should focus on. Such as the seat position, my position, the way I hold and move the tool, the balance and sweep of the tool itself, its cutting edge and not to forget mere practice. The way you describe that motion where you just nudge it with your thumb and let the weight of the tool do the rest, sounds good, but unfortunately unfamiliar to me. I’m not giving up though, but I’d take a class in adzing out a seat if there ever was one.
It took time for me to find the right swing. Until then I felt like I was standing in the wrong place and working all the wrong muscles.
You should take a look at Kestrel Tools. He makes very nice PNW-style dazes and crooked knives. You can buy just the iron and haft it yourself, as a kit, or as a finished tool. Highly recommended.
I don’t suppose Mr Sears makes a living from these, but I am pleased to know that at least they are worth making. I’m sure many people balk at the price, but I am sure they are worth every penny. Good fortune to you Mr Sears.
Is this an adzevertiment?
Nope. We don’t do that. Read the last line of the article for the full disclosure.
It was troll humor… “Adze”-vertisment.
It’s too early for that stuff!!!
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